The flexibility stigma – downsides of remote working

by May 9, 2017

Hidden downsides of remote working


The possibility of working remotely for as much of the week as possible is perceived to be an employee perk of choice for women. In a survey carried out by 3Plus in 2017 the possibility to have a home office is listed as the top employee benefit for parents, followed closely by a tax break on child care. But there are hidden downsides of remote working which are not openly discussed.

Read: Working from home: Make it work for you and your family

downsides of remote working


Working remotely full-time puts the employee between two stools. Studies show that remote working results in employees being more productive and with higher levels of commitment to their jobs. Companies are able to save on office space with employees usually hot desking as well as other overheads such as utilities, supplies and furniture. Although an increasing number of workers operate from home for some of the time, many companies don’t invest in the sophisticated hi-tech infra structure needed to be most efficient, adding to the downsides of remote working.  Other research suggests that remote workers can end up working harder and put themselves at higher risk for burnout by being on constant call in their homes. It becomes impossible to cut off and relax.

Read: Running multiple jobs without burnout

Poor visibility

But being out of sight is an issue if you are far from the decision-making part of your organization. It means you have less visibility to the powers-that-be and are not available for adhoc discussions and meetings that crop up in the coffee lounge or corridor. Remote working, despite shifts in culture, is still seen as a soft “mommy” option, sitting around in your PJs, drinking cappuccino, even though you might be working harder than your peers. Big offices especially open-plan ones are inherently inefficient as research has suggested.

Read: 5 Steps to Raise your Visibility

professional photo

Career impact

Called the “Flexibility stigma”  Joan C. Williams, director of the Center for Work Life Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law suggests

“In high-level, professional jobs, [the stigma] stems from what one sociologist called ‘the norm of work devotion,’ where you have to prove yourself worthy of your job by making it the central focus of your life—the uncontested central focus of your life.”

This is a very male coded workplace message where women seek stronger work/life balance and men see high levels of resilience and presence as a major driver and one that is rewarded.

Dorothy Dalton says in Beware Flexibility it’s the new F Word  that:

“24/7 availability is now seen as a badge of honour and the latest tactic for keeping women out of the senior workplace sand box.“

Women who opt for flexibity and therefore opt out of a male coded workplace system for recognition and therefore reward should understand that there can be hidden downsides.

Looking to manage work life balance? Contact 3Plus now!


Staff Writer: Career Contributor
3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Job Search, Career and Mentoring or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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